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Flicks and tricks of cricket

We live in a world of exaggeration and hype where the normal is presented as special and anything beyond the ordinary is considered exceptional. Like everything else, cricket too is affected by this with event managers and marketing whizkids working overtime to produce excitement when none exists.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2004 13:05 IST

We live in a world of exaggeration and hype where the normal is presented as special and anything beyond the ordinary is considered exceptional. Like everything else, cricket too is affected by this with event managers and marketing whizkids working overtime to produce excitement when none exists. Cricket is sexed up — polished, packaged, projected and hyped up as never before.

The Australians are specialists at producing this tantalising marketing spin. Each match (even if it features a weak Zimbabwe against a weaker Bangladesh) is aggressively presented like a major movie release.

Players are projected as superstars, Sachin is the Little Master, Sourav is some Prince, Dravid is some kind of a Wall. Cricket promos promise great action, in them personalities are set up against each other (watch Habibul Basher vs Irvine) and the contest itself is nicely positioned as an epic battle.

Everyone participates in the drama, and TV networks provide masala by declaring India playing Australia as badla or lalkaar or something that sounds like a spicy offering from Mumbai film studio.

Not just the promotion, the event itself is carefully choreographed. Spectators, enticed into the venue with promises of having a good time, are provided facilities they need to party. Which means, primarily, that plenty of beer is available, and beer wenches are around to stand in bar queues (which can be longer than Brett Lee's run up) so that hard-core fans don't miss any cricket action.

But there is more than beer at Australian grounds, notably giant screens which show replays and highlights. During breaks for lunch and tea extra entertainment is laid out for spectators as loudspeakers play music (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan numbers and songs from Monsoon Wedding), athletes sprint around the ground, golfers compete in a closest to the pin competition.

Pakistan would like to duplicate some of this, to exploit the commercial opportunities coming their way during India's tour. Already, newspaper reports mention big millions they stand to make as Indian companies approach them with blank cheques to bag advertising rights.

But cricket is not just about sexing up, about hype and halla. Ultimately, what matters is quality and a Tendulkar, minus all frills, remains what he is. Similarly, as players understand that performance is more important than promotion and packaging, they remain focussed on essentials.

It is difficult, said one player, to concentrate because so many things are happening around cricket. But you have to make the extra effort to keep control and think only about what is important.

This means having an uncluttered mind, not being distracted by the noise that surrounds cricket. To maintain balance, when massively disturbed, is a key strength of the current Indian team, they know when to listen and when to switch off. The team prepares hard, studies opponents and weighs various strategy options but knows this helps only so much because action in the middle can't be anticipated, it defeats theories and throws up surprises.

First Published: Jan 20, 2004 13:05 IST